While most jurisdictions have setback requirements, it is typically beyond the scope of a home inspection to know what the requirements are for any given jurisdiction. These setback requirements are different for rear yard, side yard and front yards. They are also different for homes on corner lots or homes with streets or alleys on two opposite sides of the home.
In some areas “grandfathering” may also apply.
Also “variances” may have been obtained.
When additions are added to homes these setback requirements have to be taken into account. While I may not be able to determine the “exact” setback requirements for the home I am inspecting, there are some clues that might make one question the location of structures on the property.
At a recent inspection I noted that the addition to the home was “less-than-professionally” constructed, and that the addition was closer than 5 feet to the property line. There is a pretty good chance that the addition was done without permits. It would be a good idea in such a case for the buyer to obtain documentation that the addition meets jurisdictional requirements. They might find themselves forced to bring the structure into compliance.
In the following photo it is not hard to see that this addition to the home is certainly close enough to the fence (property line) to most likely be out of compliance. The red line is approximately 5 feet inside the property line and shows how much of the addition might need to be removed.
In older neighborhoods it is common to find homes that would today be considered too close to the property line—but these sorts of variances and grandfathering are rare in newer developments.
The methods of construction appeared to have been done “in the middle of the night” as they say—and quite possibly in the dark as well.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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